Having worked in and around parishes and dioceses since 2005, I’ve witnessed dreams of advancing robust, Christ-filled missions being stalled over the necessity of getting the parking lot re-sealed. Providing meaningful engagement to youth and their families takes a back seat to replacing the roof. Perhaps if we squeeze one more year out of the failing boiler we can afford to replace it without borrowing money—even if that means we can’t send a group to World Youth Day.
There is a better way.
My team and I have been studying parish and diocesan data from a very high level. Leveraging data from philanthropic studies, IRS records and data-tools normally used in healthcare and higher education fundraising settings, we’ve uncovered three important facts:
- Catholics are generous. When I led fundraising at a diocese, some studies listed Catholics as the least generous among Christians. The truth is that Catholics spread their philanthropy among the parish, the diocesan appeal, perhaps a Catholic alma mater, and Catholic Charities. Catholics are just as generous as any other faith tradition, if not more so.
- Your parishioners have the resources your parish needs. It’s that simple. IRS data indicates that the best determinant of giving is household resources. Households give if they can afford to. And these gifts are made—to community organizations or to the parish. The generosity is there.
- Most Catholics will give—or give more—if asked. Research fromthe USCCB, CARA and others have discovered this. Also it’s true for any nonprofit institution: people will give generously if you ask them.
Catholics are generous, possess resources of time, talent and treasure, and are waiting to be asked. But they need to be asked! They need their pastor to invite them. They need to feel like their contributions to the parish are necessary for the success of its mission. They need to feel like they are a part of that success because 1) they absolutely are and 2) they want to feel engaged.
Imagine: while at the altar at Mass, you, the pastor, hear a beautiful voice from the congregation. You lift your head and make eye contact with that person. After Mass that person approaches you and starts a conversation. Would it not make sense for you to invite them to join the choir? In the parishioners, your parish has every resource it needs. All you have to do is ask.